There’s this one cross-eyed, big-nosed, eyepatch-wearing peg-legged teacher at my school who is about to finish his “Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment” program. While the contracted last-chance-to-fire-beginning-teacher-on-circumstantial-evidence date has passed, I’ll keep him anonymous.

BTSA is a requirement for new teachers, as it works on staff development and that sort of thing. Beyond that, it’s a mystery to me, so I asked him very casually what he thought about it.

It’s bullshit.

Could you elaborate?

It’s bullshit.

While he spoke in a higher register this time, the answer still didn’t help me. I said so.

He sighed.

It might be good if I hadn’t grown up around all this, or if I hadn’t been a high school student. It might be good for new teachers who didn’t go through a credential program. It might be good for teachers who somehow didn’t pay attention during their credential program.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s useless. It’s just more of the same credential program crap.

He didn’t elaborate much further.

I used to think that graduation meant I didn’t have to put up with inherently worthless exercises in busywork. I more recently used to think that getting out of the credential program meant that I didn’t have to put up with an excessive workload of exercises that have very little to no practical benefit in the classroom.

Nope. Two more years.


  1. TeacherMom

    Hi,

    Prima facie, this doesn’t sound like a bad idea. It seems like it could be really helpful IF the program is effective and meaningful. I’m sure new teachers must have SOMETHING they can improve upon or need advice about.

    However, it sounds like this program is the one needing the feedback!

  2. It’s still a mystery to me. She wasn’t the most helpful in illuminating what it all entailed.

  3. I’m a first year teacher who’ll be working on her portfolio for the year. Lots of reflections.

    You decide if this is helpful or not.

  4. If I can just submit stuff I’ve written for the blog, I won’t mind it at all. If detailed, specific and annoying prompts are involved, however, I believe I will.

  5. I had to take a course like that when I first started. Most of the course I took had to do with the presenter telling us he was a dean and that he was planning to work his way up to AP, and then principal. He thought he might even be superintendent one day, but wasn’t sure whether he would actually get that far before his retirement, which was topic #2 for the new teachers. We learned about his plans in great detail.

    Week after week after week.

  6. dkzody

    Even experienced teachers, new to the district we both love and adore, have to do BTSA. It hadn’t been invented when I started 19 years ago so I was saved. However, I did have to do the CLAD which I did in an 18 month cohort. That was bad enough. Busy work, busy work, busy work. There, did I say it enough times to satisfy the highers up?

  7. We don’t do that. Thankfully. Although, I don’t know. Maybe because I don’t do it, I think it might be helpful. Though, I suppose if I HAD to do it, I would hate it.

    This is how my brain works. All the time. No wonder I’m considering starting up a serious drug habit.

  8. NYC: I love that I have a laptop. I’ll probably be able to pay just as much attention to our presenters as I want. I would want to pay attention very little.

    Ms. Zody: We do our CLAD thing in the credential program these days. Well, as long as I pass the class. At this point, that’s a big if.

    It isn’t like I don’t show up. I just don’t pay attention, and I just can’t force myself to care.

    Ms. Brandy: I knew a guy, once, but he went high and stayed there.

  9. Lisa

    I finished BTSA — but it almost finished me.

    Some dishonest people at my school copied my papers. I got hauled in to face charges of plagiarism. Of course, I was cleared….but my credential wasn’t for more than a year.

    Meanwhile, the teachers who copied my work were allowed to write their own papers. They got their credentials before I got mine.

    BTSA is a huge waste of time. There is no integrity in the program. The teachers who copied my work should have been fired.

    With state budget cuts, BTSA should be eliminated. It’s a senseless program for any teacher with an ounce of sense. Most of the work is repetitive — and mindless.

  10. Horror story, indeed.

    To anyone else reading this, don’t try to figure out my perspective, as I have none. Consider the following facts:

    1. While I have a great deal of trepidation toward the program given the so-far unanimous criticism, I have no perspective or opinion of BTSA, as I haven’t started it yet.

    2. I have only quoted someone else’s opinion.

    3. As a public service and out of genuine curiosity, I wrote this entry in order to facilitate and prompt other opinions.

  11. TiredTeacher

    To those of you who have not experienced BTSA, here is a typical day:
    1. You work all day with kids until 3 p.m. and then have to drive across town to take a class from 4 to 8.
    2. The teacher is not an expert in the subject being discussed. Rather, he or she is a National Board Certified Teacher who is logging the required 90-something hours needed to claim a $10,000 stipend.
    3. The teacher reads — yes — reads from a manual that every student is given. Today’s subject: differentiation.
    4. A student raises his/her hand and explains that he/she already has received this information.
    5. Other students chime in, too, and ask the teacher to differentiate instruction for those who have already read the material in the manual, written about it, reflected upon it, and put it into practice.
    6. Instead of embracing this teaching moment — and opportunity to model how to differentiate — the teacher sheepishly explains that he/she cannot differentiate, because he/she didn’t really lesson plan for the class. Like us, he/she was given a manual and a list of activities. The teacher reminds students we can all leave early if we finish the day’s reading and written activity.
    7. The teacher drones on. The students become disengaged.
    8. No one falls asleep, though, because we are sitting in little chairs in an elementary school classroom designed for the needs of fourth graders. Big people sitting at little tables; it’s quite a sight!

    This is the kind of professional development I don’t need. It underscores why the profession is filled with people who are burned out … or bummed out. We are not treated like professionals. The teachers who are there to help us hone our crafts can’t/won’t change curriculum to meet the needs of students. We cannot take the courses at a local college, because the district gets state funding for every head in the room.

    My mentor teacher is wonderful. She looked at the huge binder of work I had to do, shook her head, and told me to jump through hoops. She knows I’m a good teacher, because she has watched me interact with my kids and had even asked to use some of my lesson plans. She knows I care about my students, and my students know I care about them.

    Frankly, anyone who has completed a quality credential program doesn’t need BTSA — unless it’s done the right way. My school district is one that is struggling to figure out the right way to design BTSA. I’ve got to believe I could get a better education for a college professor who is a specialist in his/her field than some classroom teacher who is just jumping through hoops to get NBC hours and a fat stipend. … BTSA is a program the district could — and should — eliminate to trim the administrative bloat.

    Send the district-employed BTSA experts back to school sites. Rent their office space. And let me take my classes at a nationally ranked university. I’ll pick up the cost of tuition.

    We all win.

  12. How do you respond to those who say that BTSA has improved retention among new teachers?

  13. TiredTeacher

    The retention rate is increasing because of NCLB. Under NCLB, districts must have “qualified” teachers in classrooms. That means state officials are no longer issuing emergency credentials to anyone who can pass the CBST and pony up $55. Most of the people who left teaching did not complete teaching credential programs. The emergency credentials used to be good for five years.

    BTSA is a program taken after completing the teaching credential program. Everyone in BTSA has invested time in money in a credential program. My credential cost me $45,000. I went to a private college.

  14. There are some bright spots in NCLB, it seems.

    Where did you find your information?

  15. TiredTeacher

    Got it in one of my grad school classes.

  16. If you could find a study or somesuch, I would appreciate it.

  17. TiredTeacher

    The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing does yearly reports.

    How many people are going to invest four years in earning a credential and then walk away from the profession?

    If you make it through to get the clear, you’re probably going to stay.

    Moreover, NCLB stipulates that teachers be “highly qualified.” In years past, the emergency permits were for five years.

    Now, the permit is good for one year (and renewable for a second). To get the permit, candidates must pass a subject-matter test and be enrolled in a certified teaching credentialing program. To renew the permit, the candidate must complete half the requirements for a credential.

    It’s a different world.

    I have worked with people who taught four or five years and took one education class a year. They didn’t think they ever needed to get a credential. They lost their jobs.

    In the six years I’ve been teaching I have yet to meet anyone who knows a teacher who quit the profession — AFTER earning a credential. Those who have quit did so because they didn’t meet the credential requirements. Other newer teachers were asked to leave, because they received poor performance evaluations.

    Hope this helps. The CCTC has a website. The reports are there.

  18. TiredTeacher

    Interview: Who Stays in Teaching and Why?

    The Project on the Next Generation of Teachers at Harvard University, in conjunction with the AARP’s educator community, recently released a report titled “Who Stays in Teaching and Why: A Review of the Literature on Teacher Retention.” In an e-mail interview, we asked Morgaen Donaldson, a PNGT research assistant, what the research on retention can tell school recruiters and personnel administrators.

    Agent K-12: In what way does the hiring process affect retention? What can schools and districts do to ensure that their hiring process results in strong retention rates?

    Morgaen Donaldson: While we were not able to identify studies that explicitly link teacher hiring and retention, we did find studies that link teacher hiring and satisfaction. One 2004 study founnd that a hiring process that includes a rich exchange of information between candidates and hiring districts is associated with higher levels of satisfaction among new teachers. Research also indicates that districts lose candidates when they hire teachers late in the season. Those hired right before the school year (or during the school year) struggle to get a foothold in schools. The bottom line here is that districts can increase the chance that their new teachers are satisfied by hiring them through an information-rich exchange and hiring them early.

    AK-12: How much does a teacher’s preparation or qualifications correlate with retention? Are there signs or qualifications school personnel should look for when interviewing a candidate?

    MD: There is some indication that retention rates are higher for teachers who have gone through teacher-education programs in contrast to alternative-certification programs. However, researchers do not know whether differences in retention are due to the programs or the different types of people they attract. In other words, people with a short-term interest in teaching may be attracted to alternative-certification programs and then spend only a few years in the classroom, whereas people who have a more long-term commitment to teaching may enroll in longer, traditional programs and then teach for longer.

    Retention or attrition reflects the influence of many individual-level factors and school- and district-level factors (not to mention the labor market and other influences that are probably at play). So human resources personnel should probably not depend on research on individual-level attributes to predict which candidates will stay in teaching. Their resources are probably better spent working with schools to build supports that help retain the candidates they hire. For example, a new teacher who has a well-matched mentor, for instance, is more satisfied. High-quality induction has also been associated with higher retention of new teachers.

  19. Excellent; thanks.

    If you want to share anything else, let me know.

  20. Barbara Huff

    Isn’t it remarkable how many of our preliminary credentialed teachers seem to know it all, already! Those who resent the classes they need to take (CLAD), BTSA’s reflection process on their classroom practice, etc. scare the heck out of me. I’m sorry for the students in their classes. This blogging is a way of grumbling and not recognizing how good they have it – getting their clear credential free of charge. We had to pay for ours years ago, and had just as stringent requirements.
    Heaven save me from such “teachers.”

  21. This blogging is less a way of grumbling and more a way of observing. You’ll notice that any editorial comment I make in this entry is at the end of the entry, and hardly serves as an indictment of the system. Every time I criticize the credential program, I attribute it to the consensus of long-time teachers who tell me that it’s pointless. What am I supposed to think, when a good 96 percent of teachers have criticized the redundancy and inspid silliness of the credential program?

    Inflammatory, sloppy analysis. Heaven save us from such teachers.

  22. Ceecee

    Well, I have to say, the BTSA program I am doing is 95% meaningless busy work. They don’t even have support providers available so they have you come to meetings after school to “pretend” someone observed your classroom & teaching. This is not to say I don’t appreciate, need, and want useful professional development which I’ve had a few times. BTSA is a huge waste of money – they rent out hotel conference rooms and serve lunch on china (hotel china, but still, not paper plates). Seems the money could be better spent. They also pass out books nobody wants and make you spend half your precious weekend sitting under air conditioning with 100 other bored people eating dry pastries. After I get my credential I’d like to look for a different job as before I got into this field, I used to make 3x as much money without jumping through so many hoops. It’s demoralizing.

  23. Somehow, I’m not surprised. You say it’s everything that new teachers were saying it was — at least, the by-far majority of them.

  24. dkzody

    I had to renew my credential in Jan ’09 so as is my usual method, I renewed during the summer. When I first got my credential, which has to be renewed every 5 years, I had to plan how I would obtain my 150 hours of professional development and get it approved by an administrator. I could choose different domains but I was not allowed to get all 150 hours in one area. I also had to keep copious records of this training and get it signed off each year by the administrator who had originally approved it. If the administrator changed in the 5-year period, I must get the next administrator to explain why they were taking over and agree to what the previous administrator agreed to. Then, at renewal time, I took all this paperwork to the county office of ed, and got my approval from them and they sent in my fee and application. Oh, and the payment had to be a cashier’s check.

    Fast forward twenty years…I go online, put in my credit card number, and the Credentialing Commission tells me I am all set for another 5 years. No 150 hours, no paperwork, no approval, no county office application. And, after August 15, they will no longer send a paper copy of my credential. It’s all online.

    Why the difference? Twenty years ago they had just started this renewal business and they had no idea what they were in for. There are not enough bureaucrats to handle all the paperwork.

  25. The need for a bureaucracy is also a reason you can’t cut it down, at all. It takes paperwork to cut the bureaucracy, and you need bureaucrats to do that paperwork.

  26. senseijay

    Thanks for all the comments, Tired Teacher. This article was very insightful. I’m starting BTSA my second year because I told the admins I wasn’t interested. I wasn’t willing to commit to the district I was working in, and I thought they would take the hint. They didn’t, and treated me like dirt, so I replaced them. Now I have a newer and more interesting batch of problems.

    I’m a H.S. math teacher. 10% budget cuts and a nationwide (arguably global) recession did not stop me from getting over a two dozen calls, half of them flat-out refused after accepting my offer in May, and before that, half a dozen firm offers of employment. Why don’t they get it? They need us, and I think we as teachers are easily intimidated into whatever “bullshit” they try to push us into. I haven’t met one teacher who got the boot for not doing CLAD, or not doing BTSA…and maybe I’m just in a field that people typically flee. I don’t know about other disciplines, but with math, there’s an easy out. The degree leads to dozens of other professions, all of them better-paid and more lucrative than teaching. Even though I did a two year rigorous math-centered prep program, I still regard it as just another stepping stone.

    But although I’ve signed up for the BTSA, I know this year I’m just going to show up and make halfhearted efforts and plow on into my path out of the profession. Basically to start another M.S., only one without ties to education which can be taken seriously by the business world. Education is a bad crowd, and at times I wonder if I’d be better off with holes in my resume.

  27. There’s no better profession than teaching to have while getting your master’s degree. Automatic pay raises for each extra unit? You can’t go wrong.

    I’d disagree that education is a bad crowd: Education has the standard 10 percent jerk factor I see everywhere else.

  28. senseijay

    True enough, but IMO there is a “sucking you in” effect to all of this. I think the name of the game by the higher-ups is to get you to invest your heart and soul into the profession until you’ve reached the point of no return. By surrounding our lives with Saturday meetings and insane paperwork, we eliminate all the other possibilities.

    I was referring to teaching as a bad crowd because no other disciplines take it seriously. If we really sit down and be honest with ourselves, and create a “heirarchy of respect” for the professions, we all know that teaching would be close to the bottom. Parents (or some parents) seem to be the only one who really are impressed, probably because they can get their kids out of the house for 8 solid hours.

  29. I want to accept that hypothesis, but a more practical concern bothers me before I can — so many professions can make a case for being unrespected, either among other professions or within the general public.

    Fortune 500 CEOs, who are supposed to have pretty nice, cushy jobs, are also constantly portrayed as money-grubbing, plutocratic thieves. Whether that’s true or not is a whole other matter — what matters to my point is that even this highest-up of professions is derided.

    Even ignoring outside attention, most Americans I’d ask would make a pretty good case why their job is harder than y’alls. It’s the sort of self-pitying martyr complex we see a lot of in humanity at large, a kind of one-downmanship. Constant complaining, and constantly insisting that we have it off harder than the other guy.

  30. I care

    It keeps the FAT/retired and former teachers employed all paid for by us, yesiree Bob, our taxes.

    I say let’s start a movement to save CA schools
    money, and get rid of it. If you’ve subbed or
    taught before, you shouldn’t take it anyway! It’s
    just Sacramento (if CA) making more money around and on top of we hard worker ant teachers.

    GET RID OF BTSA & Save the state money! Fire the
    the ones who started it and their cronies milking it by writing it, creating useless, make work jobs and harrassing beginning teachers. Useless drivel….

    STOP BTSA NOW!

  31. BTSA Burn out

    It is refreshing to see that there is an effort being made to initiate and maintain dialogue about this issue.

    BTSA was originally created to provide support to teachers who were seen as lacking the fundamental skills to teach effectively. Teachers put into this program were put there by the administrators who observed and assessed them on their performance in the classroom.

  32. BTSA Burn Out

    It is refreshing to see that there is an effort being made to initiate and maintain dialogue about this issue.

    BTSA is a huge waste of time. As a new teacher I spend a tremendous amount of energy and time on preparing my lessons and planning for future lessons. The last thing on my mind is filling out forms a through z on 20 different “events.” If retaining teachers is a problem, BTSA certainly does not help alleviate this issue.

    BTSA was originally created to provide support to teachers who were seen as lacking the fundamental skills to teach effectively. Teachers put into this program were put there by the administrators who observed and assessed them on their performance in the classroom. It was not intended for teachers who perform their responsibilities satisfactorily.

    BTSA is a needless waste of California tax funds, especially in this difficult time.

    Does anyone know how much of the state’s Ed. budget goes to the BTSA program?

  33. BTSA Made Me a Better Teacher

    I happened across this blog while looking for something else. Although my comment is not even relevant since it’s months after the discussion, I feel comelled to say that BTSA is not bullshit. Sometimes the way it’s implemented in a district can be bullshit, but the prohgram itself is incredibly helpful and totally based on classroom application. What’s bullshit is people (like the original blogger) who haven’t even experienced it creating a blog to discredit it. If teachers want to be treated like professionals, we must act like professionals. You don’t hear accountants and lawyers online whining about new tax laws, etc. Or doctors complaining about new surgical safety requirements? Grow up and be a good model for the kids.

    • what world do you live in? All professions call something bs from time to time and YES the do to whin about it. If you had a good BTSA experiance that yahoo good for you, you r 1 in a million. For me I would rather put the effort into my kids and class then to show someone that after x number of years in teaching, a credential and a masters in education that I know how to make a seating chart or where to find the city library. When a single project ends up being 15+ pages it just becomes crazy. This program does not retain teachers, yet burns them out at a faster rate. All BTSA does is give you practice on your acting skills, because lets face it what they have teachers doing is not reality in the classroom, it is simply put, a “DOG & PONY SHOW”. But if that is what you found helpful then here, this is me clapping for you. By your comments I am figuring you either are on the ban wagon and are apart of BTSA team in some district or just very young, not married or have no life. I agree that people who have not been apart of this program can not really put a true meaning behind the program, but you are the only one besides people who are making money on BTSA that I have ever heard/read say it was a good thing. Pure and simple it is not!!! The idea may be good but the work load and what they have people doing are not. you talk about being professionals, the BTSA office and it cronies or at least the BTSA office where I live for the most part the majority, do not treat the teachers as professionals. so again, pat on the back to you for have a great experiance, but for me and all the others I have seen waste their time with BTSA I have to stongly disagree with you, but the nice thing about all this, is it is ok to agree to disagree!

  34. BTSA Made Me a Better Teacher

    Oops! Obviously I felt COMPELLED not comelled. I was typing quickly🙂

  35. BTSA Made Me a Better Teacher

    Same goes for PROGRAM not prohgram

  36. Patrick

    There is no question that BTSA is a complete waste of time. Instead of having a “supportive” and enriching effect on me as a new teacher, it has the effect of adding stress to my already difficult set of circumstances as a newer teacher in an inner-city school.

    BTSA has no practical value to me as a teacher and does not benefit my students in any way, shape or form. I imagine that the district is spending a considerable amount of money on this program which makes absolutely no sense considering the current financial crisis.

    So, at heart, BTSA is a two-fold crime, since it is literally (1) a drain on a teacher’s time and energy that brings no benefit to either the teacher or the students, and (2) another unecessary drain on the district’s financial resources.

    Best wishes to all…

    • Tony

      I totally agree. It also must be said that the programs vary greatly from one district to another, people in other districts have told me that their programs were not hard and their facilitators are not as strict as mine. However, my local district has a BTSA director that we like to refer to as the “BTSA Nazi.” and (if she doesn’t like you) she finds any possible way to make BTSA a completely horrible experience.

      Many people say we should stop complaining about BTSA. But I just wonder how they would feel if they had to do everything teachers have to in order to get our “high-paying salaries”:

      1. Go to college 4 years to get BA
      2. Complete an additional 2-years of school in a credential program
      3. Work 6 months (WITHOUT PAY) as a student teacher

      And just to top it off, REDO everything you did in the credential program AGAIN and organize it very neatly in a huge binder just so it’ll sit in the back of your closet for the next 5 years.

      BTSA has been a huge waste of time for me. It has kept me from spending valuable time working with my students because I’m too busy after school typing up stupid forms, or I’m too tired cause I had to stay up until 2:00am finishing up a stupid reflection on an analysis of a lesson I did to put in my BTSA binder.

      Now that it’s the end of the year, many teachers at my school have even been calling-out because they need to do so many revisions to their inquiries and forms. How is that benefiting our students!?

      I am all for improving my teaching practice. I will be doing the National Board Certification program next year–A REAL program for teachers to improve their teaching practice.

      However, I simply feel that BTSA is the most insulting waste of time I have ever done in my life. Perhaps, I would feel differently if there was some other benefit to it–other than not having the credential I worked 2 years for and for which spent 10,000.00 dollars taken away. I simply can’t wait until the five years are up so that I can burn my BTSA binder in effigy of the terrible waste of time it has been.

      I wish I knew who created the BTSA program so I could go TP their house!

  37. none

    I totally agree. BTSA is such a waste of time, I can’t wait to finish my portfolio so I can burn it in effigy of all the BS that teachers have to go through in order to get a mediocre salary.

    If districts want to save money, getting rid of BTSA should be the #1 option.

  38. That is some inspirational stuff. Certainly not knew that opinions may well be this varied. Quite a few thanks for every one in the enthusiasm to offer you such truly valuable info in this write-up.

  39. BTSA is DONE!

    I am a teacher who just submitted BTSA (5 minutes ago literally) and I found this page looking for a review of the BTSA program (which I cannot find).
    My experience with the program has been frusturating to say the least. When starting a new profession most employers offer a training and time for their employees to learn the profession, BTSA however reduces the amount of time a teacher spends in the classroom (mandatory trainings, meetings, and LOTS of paperwork) and the training is almost non existent, instead focusing on answering questions like “how do you ensure that you are modifying instruction to create equity and equality for all students?” Answering one of these questions is frusturating, but BTSA requires new teachers to answer questions like this between 50-100 times, thus frusturating teachers who go through the program.
    Perhaps the worst part of the BTSA program is the lack of oversight, both for teachers and “mentors”. I have been observed a total of 2 times in 2 years. My “mentor” showed up on time for a meeting once in 2 years, often choosing to cancel meetings after the meeting time. During trainings one “mentor” would present while 6-8 others (did I mention these people get paid 100k?) gossip loudly, check social media and share videos of the kids (occasionally stopping training to show these videos to the room). The “mentors” are highly paid, have little responsibility, and no accountability.
    Perhaps the most alarming part about this experience is I am a teacher in the Bay Area, at one of the top districts in the state and country. So if the program is this bad here, in a model district, what is it like elsewhere.

  1. 1 Apocalyptic Undertones and This Blog « On the Tenure Track

    […] there was trouble. Months ago, I had quoted him on mentioning how much bullshit BTSA is, and he could tell who he was. I agreed to change every recognizable feature mentioned in the blog […]

  2. 2 It Was Bound to Happen Eventually « Off the Tenure Track

    […] anxiety proved unfounded — besides the customarily cool-blooded greeting I always got from a certain teacher, puzzled indignation from across the room by way of another, and an awkward, friendly joviality […]




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